Top 10 Things To Do in Stillwater

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Downtown Stillwater is home to more than 50 independent shops / Alma Guzman
Things to Do // List

Top 10 Things To Do in Stillwater

By Caitlin Hannah

The charming river town of Stillwater is located on the banks of the St. Croix River and has been dubbed the “birthplace of Minnesota” due to its significance in Minnesota’s lumber industry. These days, it's known best for its bustling downtown filled with unique local shops, restaurants, breweries, wineries, boutique hotels and biking opportunities.

Use our visitors guide to find what to do, when to go, where to eat and where to stay when you’re in Stillwater.

  1. Go Shopping
    Go Shopping

    If you’re ready to shop, downtown Stillwater is the place to be! Dotted with more than 50 charming boutiques and shops, there are treasures for everyone. Showcase your Minnesota pride at A Spacious Place, Minnesota Made Apparel or The Shirt Factory. For clothing, jewelry and accessories stop in Jori & June, Enchante, Downtown Divas and more.

    If you’re on the hunt for antiques, Stillwater is your town. With several spots within walking distance alone, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for. Home chefs will love exploring Alfresco, Cooks of Crocus Hill, Stillwater Olive Oil and Pinch N’ Rub for cooking gadgets, oils, spices, spreads and sauces. Makers and crafters will want to explore Darn Knit Anyway, Rose Mille or Art N Soul.

  2. Take a Trolley Tour
    Stillwater trolley

    Tour the city by trolley / Alma Guzman

    Take a Trolley Tour

    Hop on the charming red trolley for a fully narrated, scenic tour of Minnesota's oldest town. As the trolley weaves its way into the hills overlooking downtown, it's hard not to be impressed by the beautiful Victorian homes of the wealthy lumber barons of the 1800s. Special, themed trolley tours are available during the holidays and Halloween.

  3. Scratch Your Art Itch
    Teddy bear park in Stillwater

    Teddy Bear Park, Stillwater / @highwayhighlights

    Scratch Your Art Itch

    Art hounds will find plenty to love about Stillwater, as well. You'll find unique sculptures scattered throughout downtown on the River City Sculpture Tour, and live theater can be enjoyed at The Zephyr Theater throughout the year. Once the sun goes down, Stillwater also becomes a hot spot for live music. Visit any of Stillwater's 15 live music venues, including Ziggy’s, Portside, PD Pappy’s and The Tilted Tiki, for a variety of genres.

  4. Take a Bike Ride
    Take a Bike Ride

    Shift your trip into high gear when you go for a bike ride in Stillwater. The popular Brown's Creek Trail spans 5.9 scenic miles from the western edge of town into downtown. The trail is built on a former railroad grade, offering level and accessible rides to users of all abilities. Or take a spin on the highly anticipated St. Croix River Crossing Loop Trail (expected to be complete in 2020), a 4.7-mile path that goes through Minnesota and Wisconsin.

    For visitors in need of a bike, just make your way to the DIRO Outdoors self-service rental bikes located downtown and rent one using your smartphone. Want a boost? Electronic-assist bikes are also available to rent at the Gateway Trailside food truck and Mike’s Bikes on Main Street.

  5. Cruise the St. Croix on a Historic River Boat Tour
    Stillwater paddleboats

    Take a paddleboat ride to explore the St. Croix River Valley / Thomas J. Wieland

    Cruise the St. Croix on a Historic River Boat Tour

    Of course, there's nothing like a river boat tour on the St. Croix River. Designated as a National Scenic Riverway by the National Park Service, the St. Croix is one of the most beautiful and least developed rivers in the Upper Midwest. It's an incredible, magical place where wildlife flourishes and memories are made. Tours are available from May to October and offer lunch, dinner, beer tasting and fall color cruises.

  6. Pamper Your Palate at a Trendy Restaurant
    Pamper Your Palate at a Trendy Restaurant

    Thanks to the growing number of trendy restaurants and cafes lining Main Street, Stillwater’s dining scene has been booming in the last few years. Some notable spots to check out are Brick & BourbonLoLo’s, Feller, Lolito, Phil's Tara Hideaway and The Dock Cafe. For cyclists looking for a bite with some bikes, pedal up the hill to Chilkoot Cafe & Cyclery, Stillwater's own bike shop/cafe/restaurant/heaven.

  7. Sip Craft Beers, Cocktails & Minnesota-Made Wines
    Sip Craft Beers, Cocktails & Minnesota-Made Wines

    If you’re into beer, sip a local pint from the source at Lift Bridge Brewery or Maple Island Brewing. Craft cocktail bars like Velveteen, No Neck Tony’s and The Long Goodbye offer unique libations. You can sip Minnesota-made wines at Northern Vineyards with views of the Lift Bridge on their outdoor deck or do a wine tasting at St. Croix Vineyards.

  8. Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
    Two kids and dog eating ice cream on bench in Stillwater

    Leo's Malt Shop in Stillwater is one of Minnesota's many must-visit ice cream shops / Paul Vincent

    Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

    For your sweet tooth, visit the infamous Nelson's Ice Cream for big scoops of ice cream, find Instagram-worthy creations at MN Nice Cream or enjoy a classic cone at the walk-up window at Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop. Don’t miss the candy shops that offer homemade treats and vintage candies like Candyland, Tremblay’s and Barbara Ann’s Fudge Shop.

  9. Attend an Event
    Guess the weight of the biggest pumpkin at the Stillwater Harvest Festival

    Guess the weight of the biggest pumpkin at the Stillwater Harvest Festival / Photo by Thomas Wieland

    Attend an Event

    Not sure when to visit? Plan your trip around one of the many exciting events on Stillwater's events calendar. Standout events include Lumberjack Days, which celebrates with log rolling, a beer garden and live music; the fall Harvest Fest, with its pumpkin regatta on the river and giant pumpkins; and, for winter visitors, nothing will warm up your spirits like a stroll through thousands of lights at the new Stillwater Lights exhibit.

  10. Stay at a Historic Bed & Breakfast or Boutique Hotel
    A family with their dog relax at the Lora Hotel in Stillwater

    The boutique Lora hotel in Stillwater retains features from site's former brewery / Paul Vincent

    Stay at a Historic Bed & Breakfast or Boutique Hotel

    Stillwater’s bed-and-breakfasts and inns are housed in historic Victorian homes like the Aurora Staples Inn, Rivertown Inn or Water Street Inn. Boutique hotels are also new to downtown with spots like Hotel Crosby and Lora, which both have on-site bars and restaurants. You can also find a wide variety of traditional hotels throughout the city.

Caitlin Hannah

Caitlin Hannah is Explore Minnesota's social media strategist and resident Disney expert. She grew up spending summer weekends at her family's lake cabin in Detroit Lakes, and brings that "up north" attitude to everything she does. When traveling around the state, she likes trying new restaurants and taprooms, or watching Minnesota hockey.